Princely advice

Hello! This is Alice. Do you guys know Queen Elizabeth’s consort, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh? He said a thing once that’s loyally served as my guiding star.

To paraphrase, he said never to talk about yourself. And why? Because nobody cares. Deep down, everybody is interested in themselves, and nobody cares to hear who you are, or what you do.

I’ve always thought that was kinda comforting. Y’know? Don’t have to prove anything to anybody, ’cause nobody cares. I can just be me, and not be bothered by any asshole.

(Yeah, I wish… but hey, that’s not the topic for today.)

I realise that Prince Philip’s advice can be scary for some. If you’ve lived your whole life dependent on others’ good opinion, well, that kinda eats at the foundation of your being, don’t it?

Try living by it sometime, though! There’s a special kind of power in getting to decide for yourself as to what constitutes a good life.

Anyway, what I actually wanted to say is, Philip’s words may seem doubly scary for writers. We want others to hear what we’re saying, right? We need people to hear us, and we need them to care! Is there anything worse than writing a story and having nobody read it? Philip must be dead wrong!

Well, not quite. You see, when you write a story, that’s not you talking.

The story talks. You’re just the interpreter.

There’s two advantages in thinking like this, I believe. First, if your story doesn’t hit big, hey, who cares? It’s water off the bird’s back. You’re just the interpreter, after all.

Second, if your story does hit big, well, who cares? It’s nice and all – but you’re just the interpreter. What a great safeguard to keep your ego from swelling!

Heed the Prince, peeps. Nobody cares!

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Alice’s Idea Giveaway Sunday, vol. 7

Greetings, denizens of 2019! I am Alice, and I come in peace. As a token of my peaceful intentions, I gift you all with some of my best writing ideas!

So what’s the deal? Simple and straightforward. Below are my ideas. Take them, piecemeal or whole, modify them, mutate them. Everything is free! Also, I always encourage you to share your own ideas in the comments. Like love, ideas do not diminish when you share them – they multiply!

What do we got, then? Let us see.

Asmela of the Night Wind

I had an idea about the invisible assassin of the gods, Asmela. Her masters, the greedy Gods of Nar, have granted her with two magical powers: she is invisible, and she can fly.

Now, how does flight work, you ever thought about that? I had a few ideas. First, though Asmela doesn’t have to flap her (non-existent) wings, her flight does consume energy – and the gods being greedy, they don’t want to supply her from their own stores. So, if Asmela wants to fly, she’s gotta eat. Also, if she flies fast, high, or for long distances, she’s liable to get tired, just as if you were sprinting, climbing, or running a marathon.

Second, since Asmela doesn’t own any invisible clothes, she has to fly naked if she wants to stay invisible, too. Now, though the Valley of Nar is fairly hot, it can get cold up there in the skies with the wind blowing, especially if you’re naked. Ergo, if Asmela wants to fly high and not freeze, she’s got to wear furs and forgo the invisibility part.

Also, since flight must consume power, it would make sense if it would consume more power the heavier you are. Like, carrying 25 kilo on a hike is a lot tougher than carrying 5 kilo. So, Asmela must avoid carrying heavy loads and should maintain a reasonable body weight, which may not be an easy task since she also poses as the feast-loving, all-wealthy queen of the Nar Valley!

Gosh, so much to think about.

The Moonlight Monastery

I’m currently reading Anna Larsdotter’s Kvinnor i strid. More fascinating than a slow fuck! Y’all know I’m weird, and have had a soft spot for Thirty Years’ War since my twenties?

What I didn’t realise before is this: 1) the armies of that time had huge numbers of women and children tailing after them, doing all the jobs, making armies more like mobile towns than anything else, and 2) pillaging was on everyone’s minds – including womens’ – but women were also desirable booty, and 3) uniforms (didn’t exist) and allegiances (changed on the fly) were far less defined than, say, two hundred years later.

Do you guys understand what a treasure trove of stories and ideas 17th-century warfare is? I’m in love, I’m in love!

Actions in the Thirty Years’ War weren’t often “fighting” actions as such. What I mean is, you didn’t just ride out against the enemy, intending to fight them on the battlefield. A large part of actions were devoted to food! Food was super important. Like, riding out to find food. Or to steal and destroy the enemy’s food. Also, they didn’t have supply chains back then. You ate what the land had, then and there. Which means the peasants really had shitty lots. (Most everybody else too, of course. War ain’t roses and chocolates today, far less then.)

So, what I’d like historical and fantasy writers to remember is food. Food is what it’s all about. In The Moonlight Monastery (working title), I had the idea that Aguilliere’s band of soldiers have been sent to destroy the local crops to deny the Spaniards their meals. Also, they’ve taken what they can carry with them, to bring rations back to their forces.

Alas, in crossing a river while fleeing pursuing Spaniards, Aguilliere’s band loses much of their acquired booty: chickens, grain, bread, fruit, and two lovely Italian girls. The resulting shortage of food makes them desperate, and forms the crucial catalyst of the story. They have to take shelter in the suspicious monastery because everybody’s starving. (And also because the Spaniards are on their heels.)

Now, the monastery is ruled by vampire nuns, and they offer the cuirassiers the repast of their dreams. Aguilliere tries to warn her soldiers not to eat, but the Savoyards are famished – and thus they fall under the spell of the vampires, who have power over those who accept their lodging and partake of their hospitality (i.e. their food).

Lest you think the vampire nuns are all evil – they’re not – you have to look at the war from their point of view. They eat people, after all, so what they do is just the same as a hunter setting traps for hares.

My god, war’s such fun! I mean, as a source of ideas. Not otherwise.

 

That’s it for today, peeps! What are some of your best ideas? Give them to me!

Pondering on predictability

So, the other day I was fattening my arse on the couch, browsing the wonderland of television. Spectre was on. I decided, what the hell, Imma give it a chance.

Mistake. It was like somebody drafted a list of the most likely Bond tropes, and the film cheerlessly checked each item in turn. I admit I didn’t last to the end, but reading the synopsis from Wikipedia, I see I didn’t miss a thing.

I like Daniel Craig as Bond, though, for what it’s worth. He’s hot. I just wish they’d given him better lines.

I think it’ll be decades before they make a truly surprising Bond film. I’m afraid you’ll have to thaw me from cryo to see Jane Bond. But I was thinking about that formulaic nature, and maybe it’s not all bad? Because, you know, for all my big talk, I loved Dredd.

I hate predictability, but at the same time, I need a bit of it to keep me in the loop. I think that’s the crux of formulas. When you mix in too much predictability, you get formulaic dross. But when you mix in too little, the cake falls apart.

Some of it must be connected to that Johnstone’s maxim on storytelling: you have to give the audience what it expects. I know that maxim may not make a whole lot of sense, given that I’m trying to rail against predictability here, but there’s the paradox – we gotta be predictable to be unpredictable.

Please don’t ask me how that works. I’m still trying to figure out the whole of it myself.

I should probably re-read Johnstone while I’m at it. Maybe you should, too?

Keith Johnstone. Try either Impro or Impro for Storytellers.

Alice’s Idea Giveaway Sunday, vol. 6

Behold, the year reels inexorably toward a thunderous close! Everything old will vanish, and a new, shining creation will emerge! To celebrate this festival of renascence, Alice hosts yet another iteration of her giveaway of ideas!

What is this? Well, the deal is simple. Alice gives away her writing ideas for free. If you see something you like, go ahead and grab it!

I strongly believe that thoughts and dreams are common goods. I’m sharing what I’ve got, and if you want, you can share what you’ve got in the comments!

All right, waffle mode over, let’s crack that box open!

The Moonlight Monastery

Last week, I told you about this story, in which the vampire hunter Aguilliere battles demon nuns in a cursed monastery. Despite being a vampire hunter of illustrious lineage, Aguilliere is powerless against her quarry without her demon-slaying weapon, the Sword of Night (vampires are physically superior to humans, you see).

Now, I had the idea that Aguilliere is accompanied by her trusty companion, nicknamed “Pacquet”. Destiny has brought Aguilliere and Pacquet together, for Pacquet, too, belongs to an ancient lineage, albeit darker than that of Aguilliere. Pacquet is the last scion of a family who traces its origin to Amberdin, the forsaken weaponsmith, whose soul belonged to the Devil in exchange for sorcerous gifts. It was Amberdin’s descendants who forged the Sword of Night.

I love the idea of dead ancestors returning from the grave to instruct their living descendants. I also love the idea of “fleshy” ghosts – unlike the corny, translucent staple of movies, the fleshy ghost looks and feels akin to a living person, until they do something that proves their otherworldly nature. Now, I wanted to combine these two ideas in the person of Amberdin, who, at a climactic moment, returns from the dead to instruct Pacquet in creating a sword for Aguilliere, so that she may fight the vampire nuns. Aguilliere tests the sword, but alas, despite Pacquet’s best effort, it cannot harm the nuns’ supernatural bodies!

In a fateful twist, Aguilliere falls in love with one of the vampire nuns, Arienne. Arienne is scorned by her sisters, and when they find out about her and Aguilliere, Arienne is doomed. Aguilliere and Pacquet try to save her, but it is too late: Arienne meets an inescapable death!

As Arienne’s body lies before them, dead as stone, Pacquet feels compelled to somehow console the grieving Aguilliere. So, Pacquet ends up performing dark magic, and binds Arienne’s spirit into the sword she forged with Amberdin’s help. This sword takes on the name “Arienne”. Charged with its namesake’s vengeful spirit, the sword finally harbours power enough to destroy the demonic nuns – and Aguilliere goes to town!

Under the Mountain

I’m a sucker for the “king in the mountain” motif. I’m also a big fan of the Master Chief from the Halo franchise, although I think the games and their stories kinda suck otherwise. But the idea of having a super soldier in storage, and then cracking open that storage in a time of need, gets my wellies super hot!

I was thinking Lord Eva would combine these ideas, but now I’m having second thoughts. It just doesn’t click. What about you? Have you written or read about kings in the mountain, or super soldiers in storage? (Ideally, both!) If so, what was it like? All ideas appreciated!

Asmela of the Night Wind

I had an idea about an invisible assassin, Asmela, who is the puppet of the gluttonous Gods of Nar. Asmela has two chief, god-granted powers: she is invisible, and she can fly.

The invisibility thing is a bit tricky for Asmela, however. See, it can’t be turned off, so she’s invisible all the time. Have you guys ever wondered what that really means?

Like, if Asmela’s midriff and gut are invisible, does that mean you can see the food she eats, and the poop that travels through her colon? That would be very awkward for an invisible assassin of the gods, so the answer is no. Well, how does that work, then? Does food magically turn invisible when it goes into her mouth? The answer is: yes, it does.

Well, what does that mean, then? Simple! Anything Asmela puts in her mouth turns invisible as well! Imagine the difficulties if you were her, and trying to send a letter. You lick the stamp, and lo! It disappears! Thankfully, the Gods of Nar don’t maintain post offices, so Asmela doesn’t have to deal with that. But, surely the power could be used for interesting effects – or better yet, cause interesting problems.

Any ideas?

A writer’s fears

A few days ago, a local journalist hit the streets to ask folks about their fears. It got me thinking about my own fears – what do I fear?

Well, a number of things.

I fear the dark, the climate change, somebody attacking me, I fear rapists, driving over somebody, or that people will laugh at me. I fear the spiny plumage of pineapples. I fear death, illness, horses, large pigs, and inexplicable noises when I’m alone in a big house. I fear that I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. I fear the fall of civilisation. I fear that one day I’ll accidentally cut off my fingers with scissors.

Yes, I fear a fair few things. But what do I fear as a writer?

Well, to start with, I fear that I’ll never write anything good. (Yes, I fear it even though I know that I’ve already written something good. Fears aren’t rational.) I also fear that all of my writing sucks on some fundamentally inescapable level. I fear that all of my writing is boring, that I’m boring, and that I and my writing don’t have the right to exist. I fear that I won’t ever get published. I fear that when I do get published, nobody will read my works or like them. I fear that once I’m published, everybody will soon forget all about me, and I’ll never get a second chance.

What else? I’m afraid that somebody will write exactly what I’m writing at the moment, but do it infinitely better. I’m afraid that people will read my works and tell me I suck and should never write again. I’m even more afraid that people will read my works and tell me I’m mediocre. I’m afraid that nobody will read my works ever.

That about sums it up for now. Some repetition there, I’m sure. But I’m wondering – do all writers fear these things? And if not, what do they fear?

Are you a writer? Please, tell me about your fears.

Alice’s Idea Giveaway Sunday, vol. 5

Hello, peeps! Alice’s box is the gift that keeps on giving! Christmas is at hand, and creepy white-bearded lechers squeeze through holes left and right – what better time than this to take a peek in Alice’s mind and pillage it of its best ideas?

I’m sharing my best ideas once again in this weekly giveaway. See something you like? A plot progression, a character quirk, a world feature? Take what you fancy! It’s all free, names included!

What do we got today? Let’s see!

The Moonlight Monastery

I had an idea about a story set in 1636 during the Franco-Spanish War. A cavalry commander called Aguilliere (Lady Lydia Clairmont in disguise) leads a band of Savoyard cuirassiers who are fleeing Spanish troops. To the Savoyards’ good luck, mist springs up, and they think they can lose their pursuers. However, from the mist appears a strange, walled monastery. Despite Aguilliere’s sense of foreboding, they take shelter in the monastery, for the cuirassiers are deathly tired, and their horses ridden hard enough to make their hearts burst.

The monastery is of course inhabited by demonic vampire nuns, who have used their dark arts to lure humans into their lair. A bloody feast will soon be prepared!

The twist is, Aguilliere is Lady Lydia in disguise, and she is part of a long line of vampire slayers – a scion of the Clairmont family. However, in another twist, she cannot defeat vampires on her own, as they are creatures physically superior to humans. Lydia needs the fabled Sword of Night, but she left it at home when she ran away to join the army.

Then, in a third twist, Lydia falls in love with the youngest nun in the monastery, the blasphemous vampire Arienne.

Now, Lydia is caught in a web of conflicted desires, as she must save her faithful cuirassiers, do her duty as a vampire slayer, and claim the ostracised Arienne for her own.

History is tons of fun, peeps! Did you know the French soldiers were once obligated to have a nom de guerre? And did you know that a surprising number of women fought in various wars, disguised as men, and many had very long careers? Or that the cuirassiers of Savoy wore grotesque helmets nicknamed “Death’s Head”?

Asmela of the Night Wind

Asmela is the terrifying, invisible assassin of the Gods of Nar. They employ her to keep in check their rebellious stonemasons, the giants of the Dhaal Underworld. The gods have robbed Asmela’s memories and put in their place false ones, making Asmela believe that she is the queen of the luxuriantly fetid Nar Valley. In reality, Asmela was once a rebel chieftain who fought alongside the Dhaal giants to defeat the Gods of Nar. (A play which, obviously, failed!)

Asmela’s sister, Gamala, was once a powerful sorcerer, but she was slain in the war. However, Gamala’s ghost struggles to return from the lands of death, so that she may restore Asmela’s true memories. And, since the Dhaal Underworld lies closest to the lands of death, Gamala’s ghost comes there first, and begs aid from the Dhaal giants.

However, since Gamala is dead, she can’t easily distinguish the dead from the living, and ends up talking to the spirit of a departed Dhaal stonesmith, Kora Xantre. Xantre then speaks to one of her descendants through dreams. This descendant ends up being Asmela’s target.

Asmela kills her target, of course, but with her dying breath, the Dhaal giant tells Asmela to speak with Kora Xantre. This leads Asmela on the path to recovering her memory, and realising that the Gods of Nar have led her like a puppet on the string.

 

That’s it for this Sunday, fellow writers! What are some of your best ideas? Give them to me!

Violence: A Writer’s Guide

I hear a lot about various guides on how to write, but for some reason, I never hear about this one. Violence: A Writer’s Guide is written by Rory Miller, and, to be frank, it isn’t a guide on how to write. It is a guide for writers, and it talks about what violence is.

(To be honest, it works as a guide for everybody, but is ostensibly meant for writers.)

In the book, Miller talks about what violence is and how to cut somebody’s arms off with a sword on the battlefield. Also, if you shoot somebody with a pistol, they don’t die. But we already knew that from Anatomy 101. Right?

Seriously, the book’s jam packed with grisly, funny things. (Amend the “funny” part if you don’t share my sense of humour.) It’s of use if you write in the historical, fantasy, sci-fi, action, or horror genres. It’s also of use if you write in some other genre, because there’s more violence in our everyday lives than we care to admit.

The most interesting part of Violence, to me, are the emotions. Namely, people with experience on violent encounters have their stuff wired a bit different. It makes sense, right? If you’ve fought alien space monsters for years, you don’t have the same response to an angry nerd screaming at you as, say, a homeschooled pre-teen does. But most of us writers have jack all to do with serious violence, so we don’t know that, and we just end up extrapolating from our bubble-brained diet coke circumstances.

Violence is trying to remedy that. It’s good stuff, honeypies. Get it, read it.